Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Real Meaning of Christmas (Originally posted 12/08)

There are 11 children in my family. Seven girls. Four boys. All of my sisters are married, three of my brothers are married, and several of my nieces and nephews are married and have children. There are 63 people in my "immediate" family.

We have a Christmas tradition in our family of a cookie exchange. The deal is that you state your intention to be part of the exchange then Tammy (my youngest sister) sends us an email letting us know how many people are participating. This year there are 12. That means each of us will pick a type of cookie and make 12 dozen of that one kind. (I'm the peanut butter blossom girl.) Then December 20, we bring all our cookies to my mom's and 'exchange' them for one dozen of everybody else's.

Everybody involved ends up with 12 dozen different kinds of cookies for company but everybody also only has to bake one kind.

It's probably my favorite family tradition. And we've got some whoppers.

With 63 people in the immediate family, we have enough people (especially kids) to have our own personal Easter egg hunt. We have a sort of unofficial competition to see who can get my mother the best gift for her birthday. Every Wednesday morning in the summer, one of us hosts "breakfast" for the family members lucky enough not to have a real job -- or who have summers off because of working for a school district. My sister Laura is usually the winner for favorite breakfast. She makes waffles with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

In October the kids dress up and take part in a Halloween parade. This year they were the Flintstones, complete with PVC pipe Flintmobile. In a way, they were their own little float.

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, rather than battle shoppers, my mother hosts the cookie painting party for her grandkids. She bakes sugar cookies and makes colorful icing and the kids paint the cookies with the icing. They go on a Christmas tree in the family room with bubble gum and candy canes.

There are enough of us that if every 'family' within the family chips in $50 we can buy my mother a major appliance for Christmas.

In a lot of ways we sound like a small town, but really we're just family. We like to be entertained -- maybe too much -- and we enjoy each other's company. We were taught to share, to be generous, to include everybody in every baseball game, football game and/or card game we played and those lessons carried over into adulthood.

I sometimes look at my family and our traditions and wonder. . . Are we a tad crazy? A little too in love with entertainment and stimulation. . .Or is this what life's really all about? Sharing your toys, including everybody in the game, and baking enough cookies that everybody gets a dozen.

Merry Christmas. This year, share your toys, include everybody in the game and bake an extra dozen cookie to give to someone in your town, your church, or at your office, who might not get a cookie this year.

Susan meier

susan meier
MAID IN MONTANA, Harlequin Romance, 6/08
THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS, Harlequin Romance 11/09

The 12 Days of Christmas (Originally posted 2008)

When Donna put out a call for authors to join her in celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, I answered quickly. I love Christmas! Not because of the presents. . .well, maybe a little. . .LOL. . .but because I love the spirit of the season.

For me "Christmas" began a little before Thanksgiving. I was tired. I'd worked since early morning, while my son slept in. It was, after all, his day off. I've noticed that writers don't get days off. . .but that's a blog for another day.

Anyway, Michael has a seizure disorder and doesn't drive. When he awakened, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to go to the bank, do a little shopping and buy lunch, let's just say I wasn't in as festive of a mood as he was.

A dutiful mom, I put on boots and a coat and drove him to the bank and a sandwich shop and then to the discount department store to get his prescription and a few things. I sat in the car and watched him jog inside, waving to friends, yelling greetings and laughing.

I'm not really Scrooge, but I did look at him and think, it must be nice to have all that energy. Then I remembered he was going into the store to buy medication that stops his seizures but makes him tired. He fights it. He has a job that pays him a decent wage, but he still has to live with his parents. (That can't be easy.) But he rarely complains. He makes the best of what he has.

In a few minutes, he ran out again and by this time the Salvation Army bell ringer was in place. Without hesitation, Mikie dug into his pockets and pulled out a few bills which he tossed into the pot. The bell ringer thanked him. He shrugged off the thanks and ran to the car, ready to go home and eat lunch.

In that moment I wasn't sure if I was more proud of him or more in need of the V-8 head-thump myself. Sometimes we get so bogged down in what we perceive to be the necessities of life that we forget life's biggest joy is giving. Not merely money, but smiles, waves, little acts of kindness.

Mikie knows how to appreciate the holiday because he doesn't see what he's lacking; he appreciates what he has and he turns his appreciation into action. He starts early, gives generously, loves mightily.

On that day in November, I decided to take a page from his book. I started early. I'm giving. Not just money, but time and conversation.

And I'm loving mightily. I'm looking around, seeing who needs to be loved. Who needs a smile. Who needs a prayer. Who needs someone to show him or her a simple kindness. And I'm doing those things. Even if it means going out of my way, giving up my place in the checkout line to someone who looks more tired than I am, being patient in traffic.

Celebrate the season by giving yourself the best gift of all. . .the gift of giving. Watch the smiles of your week double, the sincere thanks warm your heart and the love you give come back in wonderful, unexpected ways.

The Magic of Christmas (orginally posted 2008)

This time of year, I hear a lot of grumbling and complaining about the commercialism of Christmas. Truth be told, I categorize the complainers into two camps: Those who hate to shop and those who've never experienced the magic of Christmas.

When I was young, I spent a Christmas Eve in the back seat of the family car, with five or six of my brothers and sisters, waiting while my dad fixed our car, which had died halfway to the popular discount department store where my parents planned to buy our gifts. In the dark backseat, we whispered to each other that there'd be no Christmas that year. Not only had the money been spent for car parts, but also by the time the car was fixed the stores were closed.

But under the tree the next morning were gifts galore. Things my parents had purchased at a drugstore that stayed open later than the department store. I remember pop beads, a toy medical bag complete with candy pills, and, of course, a doll. Some of my all-time favorite presents. I don't remember what I got for Christmas most years, but that year sticks out - - because of the magic.

One year, my father worked away from home and because Christmas was on Monday, he had to leave on Christmas Eve. The mood at our dinner table that night was solemn, sad, until my sister went into the living room and under our tree were our presents. Santa, my parents told us, had visited us first since he knew Dad couldn't be around Christmas morning.

The "how" of all my Christmas magic is transparent when I look back as an adult, but it's magic all the same. The memories make me smile and also make me realize how far my parents would go, what they would sacrifice to make our Christmas special.

That's what Christmas magic is all about.

The magic of Christmas isn't something you can buy at a store or catch in a jar. It's an unexpected jolt of joy, a sense that anything's possible - - if you believe.

Sometimes you feel it from something as simple as having someone open a door with a smile, a merry conversation with a stranger in the checkout line, or a parking space that suddenly opens up when you're trying to shop on your lunch hour.

Sometimes your heart will be touched. Listening to the choir sing a familiar melody, you suddenly feel lifted. Dropping your coins into the Salvation Army container, you receive a smile of gratitude from a cold, probably hungry, bell ringer and you suddenly realize that lots of people do more than shell out money to make the holiday special for their friends and families, they give time and make sacrifices for needy strangers, people who depend on others for their Christmas magic. . . and you ask yourself. . .why haven't I?

Sometimes the scent of pine cones or fir trees or gingerbread will transport you to a happy time, when you were young and everything was magical and you realize how much your parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends loved you to make all your Christmases special, wonderful.

That's what we pass on. Our legacy to our kids isn't a philosophy of success as much as it is the ability to see real magic and to know we're all magicians.

All it takes is a smile, a helping hand, an open door, more time than money, more love that sacrifices.

That's the magic of Christmas.

And that's what my hero, Jared learns in HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS. Jared has a tragic past, the kind of past that would level most people. He survived by living in denial. But face-to-face with someone who's suffering in the here and now, longing for the type of family he's throwing away, Jared not only learns to count his blessings; he also realizes that Elise copes by seeing the magic in everything. But can he learn to see the magic before his time runs out and he must return home for Christmas?

HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS easily turned into one of the favorite books I've written, all because of the magic.

I'd love to hear other Christmas magic stories!

susan Meier

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Is Over...

...but I'm going to be reposting some of my Christmas 2008 "best of" blogs for your entertainment this week.

I have a book due early January, so I'm knee deep in that and posting in the Challenge, Challenge, Challenge blogs in the RWA online chapter forums, if you're really interested in the true challenges some of us face making tight book deadlines!

I'm also giving an online class, THIS IS THE YEAR YOU WRITE THAT BOOK, for the Yosemite chapter in January. You have until January 4 to sign up for that if you're interested. It should be tons of fun! Half the course is lessons on understanding the psychology of writing a book. The other half is lessons on crafting. Some fun, intersting stuff.

All of my nieces and sisters were taking pictures yesterday, but I think this one about sums up our Christmas this year! (I'm the one in the green cat socks.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Christmas!

We got several inches of snow over the weekend and I have to admit (or maybe hate to admit) that it made me feel jolly, Christmas-y, happy and festive. My husband, who has been shoveling the stuff, isn't quite so merry.

This has been an odd Christmas season for us. Our kids' circumstances are unusual at best. But the bottom line is neither Sarah nor Mikie has money to buy gifts for Christmas.

It's been hard on them. Their dad and I don't want them to use credit to buy gifts, but more than that, we wanted them to get this lesson. Christmas is about more than gifts.

We always say it's more blessed to give than receive, so what happens when that blessing is taken away from you because of job situations?

Mikie has been okay with it. He's looking to the future. Seeing himself next Christmas able to buy gifts.

Sarah, a nurturer, is feeling the pain. She wants to give. So she's wrapped up cookies, giving massages, doing more personal things.

All in all, I think both are getting good lessons. Mikie's learning one year of difficulty isn't the end of the world. Sarah is learning that the best gifts in life aren't those you buy from a store.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Monday, December 14, 2009

RWA Online Chapter 136

If you're a member of the RWA Online Chapter (136), scoot over to the forms, the Challenge, Challenge, Challenge topic and look for my daily posts about writing a book through the holidays ... with a few other distractions thrown in!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Cats

A cat, Creamsickle, plays a leading role in bringing the hero and heroine together in THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS. This isn't an accident. My cat Sophia has done some remarkable things. She can cheer up anyone. She keeps the rodent population to a minimum in our little section of town. She meows if I yell...even if I'm "yelling" to call someone to dinner. Which has turned me into a much quieter person. But she doesn't get along with our other cat Fat Fluff.

We've figured out why. She believes she's a member of the family and Fluffy is just the cat. The pet.

It all goes back to the day we got Sophie. A few weeks before we'd had to put Fluffy's brother Basil to sleep. I couldn't seem to get over his loss. He was a wonderful, huge black cat who loved to hide in poinsettias. So it was awful.

My niece Kelli just happened to be driving home from Pittsburgh one Saturday and they found poor Sophie on the road beside a stretch of woods. She was so tiny she fit in the palm of Kelli's hand. She was also covered in dead leaves, and sneezing. A new mom, Kelli couldn't leave the poor kitten, so she brought her home and my sister suggested they call me since I had just lost a cat.

I went to Helen's house to see Sophia and it was not love at first sight. She was filthy. She was angry. And she didn't seem to want pity! LOL But she needed me. So we took her home and my husband (ace that he is with cats) tried to give her a shower. Get that picture in your head. There's my well muscled, tough guy husband holding a squirming, screaming fist-full of kitten under the shower head. He ended up wetter than she did.

Fluff wanted nothing to do with her. First, Basil was his brother. Second, she had a virus (which we didn't know until the next day when we took her to the vet). Third, she was a feisty little brat.

She was also so tiny I had to feed her milk from the tip of my finger. Then because she was so small and so scared, I cuddled her. I used my chin like a mama cat would use her tongue to bathe and sooth a kitten. And I guess somewhere along the way Sophie decided I was her mom.

After that, we presume she looked around, realized Fluff was a pet -- but the rest of us were family -- and she was being treated like one of she must be one of us.

We named her Sophia Maria Lolita Conchita Chequita much of a longer name than Fat Fluff that we also figure that helped fortify her theory that she was family. So now she seriously treats Fluff like the family pet, while she's one of us.

And her greatest love is to sit on my desk, watching the little characters appear to the computer screen while I write. She absolutely, positively has a say in things around here!

With such an odd cat like Sophia, you would think she inspired Creamsickle in THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS, but it was actually Fat Fluff!

Creamsickle is quiet, but loving. He wasn't really happy when the new foster kid moved in. But when he realized how in need of love and affection Harry Martin was, he stepped up...just like Fluff did when Sophia arrived. He didn't even protest when Harry bought the bell collar for around his neck. In fact, he sort of liked it. And he also agreed with Harry that Wendy Winston, Harry's new guardian, needed more love in her life. Not just from wonderful Harry, but from a mate. So he didn't mind one iota being involved in Harry's plot to get Wendy Winston and Cullen Barrington together before Christmas.

Add a candy factory and a sexy, but grumpy, hero to the mix and you have quite a story! LOL THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS was one of the most fun stories I've ever written. I actually read it when my author copies arrived! LOL. Not only did it put me in a Christmas mood, but also I liked being with those characters. I liked being in that candy factory. I loved the small town, with the tinsel and silver bells, ice storms and fluffy white snow banks. I loved Wendy and I loved Cullen. Because they were both such wonderful people. Both had hearts big enough to open when Harry needed love.

Yeah, Wendy and Cullen really deserved a happy ending. They really deserved each other. But it took some conniving on Harry's part, a little bit of magic on Creamsickle's, and lots of cocoa and popcorn by the fireplace!

It's a special book about special people and I was thrilled to be the one to get to write it!



Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Wizard of Oz Wore Braces

Yes, it's that time of year again...High School Plays.

My niece Lindsay was the Good Witch Glenda in her high school's production of the Wizard of Oz. She was so good, we wanted to stand up, point at the stage and yell, that's my niece! LOL

The cowardly lion was also fantastic, as were the tin man and the scarecrow. It's amazing to realize these were only high school kids. But Lindsay's high school has a history of producing fabulous musicals.

I didn't realize how long it had been since I posted until I logged in to write this post. In the past week, my editor has gotten back to me on two books that are already in. Both need to be proofread (coming next month! LOL) and two projects I'd been waiting for comments on.

But I also celebrated my wedding anniversary. We got some good news for our oldest son. My daughter is "this close" to getting a job. And our son who lives in Pittsburgh may have found a house. Add writing to all this and I guess we've been a tad busy.

Today my husband and son are rebuilding our stairs...and I have to confess I'm nervous. LOL

I hoping I don't have to sleep on the couch tonight and wear the same closes for three days while they figured everything out!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Technology versus Susan Meier

Reprinted from Harlequin Romance Authors' Blog on

Susan Meier Versus Technology...

And technology is winning!

For those of you who were at the HR authors blog on Friday, you realize that I also posted then. Why? The Google Calendar we use to keep track of the Harlequin Romance authors blogging each month seems to be having weird hissy fits. I've been deleted and added back in on dates that I SWEAR I have not chosen. I've dropped off dates I've chosen and magically reappeared only to disappear again.

They tell me (they being my more technologically savvy kids) that this is my fault. I am doing something wrong. Really? There's a secret handshake? LOL

Nope, the kids reply...You're clearly missing a step, not clicking an icon or hitting save or walking around your desk three times while chanting nursery rhymes.

To fix this, since I'm embarrassed that it's always me who seems to have trouble on Google, I volunteered to do the calendar manually.

Problem solved.

Yeah. Until I decided this week that it was time to become active on Facebook and to join Twitter. Only one hour into my Twitter experience I had the distinct feeling I was David going against Goliath...with no sling shot.

I filled out the form and quickly discovered I couldn't call myself Susan Meier. Someone else had taken my name. Okay. I get it. Susan Meier is kind of a common name. So I called myself Susan Meier 1 and everything was peachy. Except when I announced to friends to find me on Twitter...and I wasn't there.

Four days later, I still don't come up in a people search. You can find me by going directly to but you can't search for me. I'm not hiding...At least not deliberately. I'm simply not coming up in searches and no one seems to be able to figure out why. But don't worry, I've contacted customer support. I'm #367,845. They should be getting to me in the year 2048.

Still, I persevered. I can do the HR Author blog calendar manually. Not a big deal. I also don't mind the little glitch in Twitter. I'm sending everyone I know my addy to avoid the evil search. I needed to blog and to be on Facebook and Twitter so I could announce that my new ezine was coming out...Just as soon as I wrote it.

I have a really neat system for writing my ezine. I use blogspot. I can write it, edit it and even publish it myself without having to bother my web designer -- who is a lovely person and would help me in a minute...but I'm determined to conquer this Internet thing!

Anyway, I wrote the Intro, found a great lesson from one of my online workshops to use as a writing tip (it's a mini-goal-setting seminar, great for people wanting to set 2010 New Years Resolutions). I wrote a cat tail, reminded people of all the things they missed by not popping onto my website in the past 3 months... and published it. Bingo. Perfection.

Sort of.

I realized I had offered people the option of subscribing to the ezine, but didn't have a system for delivery. No problem. I would capture their email addresses and put them in a group and send them all a notice containing the blog addy to find the ezine. Piece of cake.

Not really.

I had more subscribers than I'd thought and my little "capture" and create a group project took hours. But that was okay. I'm not averse to a little hard work. LOL Even if it does mean I'll be hunched over for the next forty days.

I sent the email announcing that the ezine was "up" and then discovered I'd forgotten to put an excerpt from THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS in the ezine. Duh! That was sort of the point of the ezine. To let people know about the new book! Duh! Double Duh!

Suddenly Twitter wasn't looking like the cause of my Internet problems anymore and maybe Google's calendar wasn't half-baked.

Could the problem really be me?

Maybe...Well, yes.

The whole dang problem with Social Networking is that it changes overnight. Just when I master one thing there's a new thing on the horizon. And I want it all. I love being in touch. I adore helping people with writing tips! I want to brag about my cat, tell people stories about my heroic son, whine a little about my weight and in general enjoy every darned person I can find.

So it's me. My love of communication will always have me wanting to be on the cutting edge even before I know how to get there!